Fairford Legal Support Team | 22.03.2003 18:11
FAIRFORD 22 MARCH 2003-03-22
FROM: LEGAL SUPPORT TEAM
CONTACT: 07887 585 721
HUNDREDS OF PROTESTERS BARRED FROM PEACEFUL PROTEST
Mass abuse at USAF Fairford
This afternoon, between 2,000-3,000 peaceful protesters took part in a march and rally at USAF Fairford in what was a heavily over-policed environment. Police used two sections of the 1986 Public Order Act (12 & 14) to impose conditions and restrictions on the march and rally, making it a criminal offence to take alternative routes or at differing times. Police had also blocked off many roads in the area. Officers from as far afield as Greater Manchester and the West Midlands were drafted in for the day.
A reported 1,000 officers were on duty for the demonstration, many in full riot gear and on horses.
Four people were arrested. Two under the 1994 CJPOA, for allegedly failing to remove masks and two others whose reasons for arrest remain unknown.
The legal support team are particularly concerned at the large number of seemingly random stop and search incidents on the day. An estimated 25 incidents of vehicle and person searches under S60 CJPOA were reported to the legal support team during the day. The vehicle and members of the legal support team were. Reasons given included “search for offensive weapons likely to cause damage” at the base or “injury to airbase staff”.
In a most worrying development, three coaches carrying protesters from London, were turned away from the protest and escorted back to the city, with several police forces carrying out escort duties from region to region Amongst the passengers was the 64-year old aunt of one of those killed in New York on 11 September 2001. On arrival in London a number of police vehicles were waiting at Euston.
This is yet another restriction on the right to protest at Fairford. Over the past few weeks hundreds of people have been stopped and searched in the vicinity on the base by police using powers under the 2000 Terrorism Act.
Protesters are also extremely concerned at notices fixed to the fence at Fairford stating the “the use of deadly force is authorised”, and are calling for questions to be asked in the House of Commons, about who has authorised this and in what circumstances such force might be used and by whom
For more information about recent protests at Fairford see http://www.gwi.org.uk
Fairford Legal Support Team
The escort from the stop and search point about 10 miles outside Fairford started out as such, but it soon became apparent we were to be escorted all the way back to London, with no stops allowed.
At this point we were cruising along with the rest of the traffic.
When people on the coaches started to get agitated, of course needing to use the toilets and such, they started posting signs on the windows: "Democracy?" "Freedom?" "We have been prevented from protesting peacfully"
AT THIS POINT, in a telling moment, we were sectioned off from the rest of the traffic on the road until we reached London, and repeatedly prevented from pulling off at services.
The denial of access to Fairford was an extreme violation of civil liberties, and the literal sectioning off tactics on the escort back, preventing others on the road from seeing just what they were doing and from seeing protesters' signs, was just as bad.
Video from within the coach will be available soon.
The only difference being of course that the KGB were condemned by the world, whilst the behaviour of the UK police is ignored by the world ....
Apparently when the legal team and groups involved in the protests approached the media over the incident, BBC London said they were interested. Yet they did not wish to run with the story there and then, but several days later. When journalists who had been on board one of the coaches offered footage to BBC London they were told the pitch of the story was that the peace movement was being infiltrated by the more extreme anti-globalisation movement!
In recent days some of the stories I've seen run in the press would seem to follow these lines. It would appear then to be a line that some have been waiting to peddle.
Worrying, but perhaps not surprising.